Using Television Carefully

TELEVISION acts as “the main storyteller, baby-sitter and molder of public opinion,” notes Not in the Public Interest—Local TV News in America, a report compiled by a media-watch group in the United States. “TV is all around us . . . Like secondhand smoke, it’s in the air.” And just as inhaling secondhand smoke is harmful, so absorbing hours and hours of TV programs indiscriminately selected has a damaging effect—especially on children.

Speaking about crime and violence on TV, the same report notes that “many hundreds of research studies have shown that viewing violent imagery negatively influences children’s learning, aggression and empathy.” The American Medical Association stated in 1992 that “television violence is a risk factor threatening the health of young people.”

How can you control the influence of negative TV programs on your children? The report lists some tips, adapted from recommendations of several public health organizations, on how to use television more carefully. Some of those tips include the following.

▪ Plan and limit your TV viewing. Set limits on when children can watch. Do not put a TV set in children’s rooms.

▪ Put a globe next to the TV so that the children can look up the places they see in programs.

▪ Watch television with your children so that you can explain such things as the difference between fantasy and reality. Many children under the age of ten cannot always tell the difference.

▪ Move the television set away from a prominent location in your home. Place the TV set in a cabinet, behind closed doors. It will make it a little harder to turn it on and channel surf.